OFFICER DUCKWORTH ENCOUNTERS CALHOUN "WILD MAN" - Sheriff Poe Gunn Asks For Help, Rogers Not Taken Alive

(10/02/2017)

MURDER, MAYHEM, RAPE, SHOOT-0UTS AND MOONSHINE

Eldon S. Duckworth of Parkersburg served with the West Virginia State Police in Calhoun and several regional counties until his retirement in 1952, the first officer to serve 30 years.

This is a part of his memoirs, a section of which pretains to Calhoun County edited to the front of the story:

By Eldon S. Duckworth

In 1933, the writer was transferred to Glenville, where he was Sergeant in charge of State Police activities in two counties - Gilmer and Calhoun.

Police work was routine except for one bad situation.

The Sheriff of Calhoun County, Poe Gunn, had talked to us repeatedly about a bad man out in the County named Will Rogers, who repeatedly mistreated and ran his family away from home and threatened people with guns.

One night the Sheriff called us, wanting help in the case. The writer took Trooper Artie Bryant and proceeded to Grantsville, met the Sheriff, swore out a warrant and went to the Rogers home, where he had run his family off, locked the doors and refused us enter.

The writer found an unlocked window and entered, facing a wild man, covering him with a rifle.

He kept threatening with the rifle, using terrible language. The writer stepped out on the porch and tossed a tear gas bomb in under his feet.

He jumped and screamed and ran out of the lighted porch, pointing his gun at us. The writer regrets to say that we did not take him alive.

THE LIFE AND TIMES OF ELDON DUCKWORTH

Members of the Duckworth family first became associated in the solving of the biggest crimes in West Virginia 60 years ago in 1915, at which time the New York - St. Louis passenger train No. 1 was held up and robbed at Central Station, 3 miles from Duckworth Station, while taking on water.

$300,000 in cash and that much more in Federal Banknotes were taken from the Mail Car and the Thieves camouflaged as hobos - made their escape. Quite some time later, they were apprehended through their cashing the securities in different parts of the U. S. A.

They were convicted and sent to prison on the evidence of Genera Duckworth, a cousin of the writer, who identified them at the trial as she lived nearby and had been watching them for two days, as they has been camping in a thicket on her father's, Wellington Duckworth's Farm.

Newspaper clippings giving the crime in W.Va., in 1922, was a roundup, conviction and hanging of four Blackhanders (now called Mafia) in Glen Elm a suburb of Clarksburg, by the writers Uncle Clarence A. Duckworth, a deputy sheriff of Harrison County. These four Italians had murdered about 20 men in their racketeering operations.

They were sent to Moundsville prison and placed in the gallows (death house) to wait hanging.

The writer was a member of the W. Va. State Police, stationed in the prison office building at that time, and by order of the Governor, did death cell guard duty along with two other members, 8 hour shifts each, for several weeks before the hanging.

Prison arrangements were to put the four through the gallows at the same instant, but one tried to commit suicide as they took him out of their cells, so they executed three of them at the same time, and the other one who was unconscious, or acting as such was put in a straight-jacket and hung alone.

As informer who helped solved the case was afterwards found shot to death in his car. That case was never solved.

POWERS MURDERS WOMEN IN LOVE NEST

The next largest crime in W. Va. was called the Power's case near Clarksburg at the Quiet Dell and was worked out by Uncle Clarence Duckworth in 1930, while he was Chief of Police at Clarksburg.

Powers was a very attractive man and was involved in a romance correspondence deal where he became acquitted with women over a range of country between here and Chicago.

He would visit them, court them and become engaged to them (if they had money), would have them come to Clarksburg, with their money for the purpose of marriage.

On their arrival he would take them to Quiet Dell, murder them, take their money and bury them under his garage or a ditch nearby. Some of them, brought children whom, he murdered.

The result was about seven murders. He was convicted and hanged. He was a married man and it was thought that his wife knew and approved of the operation.

The Writer, Eldon D. Duckworth, enlisted in the W.Va. State Police in 1922 and was sent to Haywood Jet, between Clarksburg and Fairmont and was issued a horse.

Transportation at that time was much different from now. Train and Street Cars were used whenever possible. We had a few cars over the State, which were not of much use in wintertime, due to dirt roads and no connection between cities by hard roads.

We now have modern Transportation, including three helicopters, which to a certain degree replaces our old use of bloodhounds.

I was sent to Wellsburg after a few months because several hundred armed miners had shot and killed the Sheriff of Brooke County and wounded some of his deputies at Cliftonville, when they surrounded the house they occupied and shattered it with gunfire, even mounting the roof and shooting down through.

No progress was made in the investigation as the miners were mostly from Ohio and Pennsylvania and just disappeared.

Another episode happened at Wellsburg in 1922. A riot took place at Chester, W.Va. when a gang of hoodlums from East Liverpool, Ohio, crossed the bridge and cause a riot in which Chief of Police of Chester shot a killed the ring leader, which was justifiable.

The hoodlums of East Liverpool then swore they would kill the Chief of Police and take over Chester, where we stood guard at the W. Va. end of the bridge with a machine gun for several days with no violence except they came over while we were at lunch and hung the Chief in effigy. They had riddled the dummy with gunfire.

DUCKWORTH ENCOUNTERS CRESTON'S HOLLY GRIFFITH

In early 1923 was sent to Moundsville where we were given living and office quarters over the Warden's office in the penitentiary office building where he had a full view of the prison yard through the barred windows and could sweep it with machine gun fire in an emergency.

This move was ordered by the Governor, after the Holly Griffith internal riot and other problems within the walls. The writer was also the first motorcycle patrolman between Moundsville, Wheeling and Elm Grove.

We assisted Federal Officers in an enormous number of vice raids in Wheeling and vicinity, which resulted in the Sheriff of Ohio County and some of his Deputies being charged with accepting graft from and protecting the underworld. They were convicted and sent to prison at Atlanta, Georgia on Federal charges.

In the spring of 1924, the writer and his buddy, Ulric Crawford was transferred to Haywood Jet. (near Clarksburg) where the writer was one of the first motorcycle patrolmen between Clarksburg, Fairmont and Morgantown.

Shortly thereafter, Crawford was sent to Martinsburg, W. Va. where the Sheriff was having trouble with criminals out in the mountains, especially one named G. A. Speight, and had asked for help.

The Sheriff sent a posse, including Crawford and two other troopers to Speight’s cabin to arrest him. Speight saw them approach and hide in the mountains nearby with his gun.

After a period of time with darkness approaching, two gunshots were heard on the mountain and they found Crawford missing. After intensive search Crawford's Body was found at 6 a. m. next day where Speight had ambushed and shot him twice in the heart and breast with a shotgun, robbed him of his pocket book, rifle and watch and revolver and 2 belts of ammunition.

The Sheriff of Berkeley County phoned for help. Five of us made a sensational speed run to Martinsburg in a Cadillac 8 Roadster, belonging to Sgt. Sam Taylor-two of us riding a board across the turtleback.

Upon arrival there the Sheriff and Deputies took us to the mountains in search of the killer. A mountaineer told of seeing him and that he was armed with two guns, and told the mountaineer that he would kill a hundred of us before we could get him.

Upon discovery of Crawford's body, the Sheriff phoned for more State police and several more arrived that evening by train. Our members and deputies arranged an elaborate stake out.

Four of us (writer included) went to and hid in Speight's cabin hoping that he might come back, about daylight, his dog ran out barking and we learned that he was in the barn, a two story structure in a dip about 100 feet away, he was standing in the open door.

A SHOOT-OUT

We ran out demanding his surrender. He slammed the door shut and began shooting at us. The writer ran to the other side of the barn to prevent his escape, and got behind a small tree. This was the beginning of a shooting episode that lasted almost 7 hours.

He would fire a shot from upstairs, then run downstairs and visa-versa. He would cruse us with terrific oaths, saying he would kill us all. Soon Police from other sections started coming in on my side and I would report them to Lieutenant Lilly who would station them in strategic positions around the barn.

We soon had about 20 Police, all of them shooting into the barn with machine guns, pistols and rifles. He tired to escape through the grove where the writer was stationed. We exchanged several shots, he fell in the underbrush and crawled unseen back into the barn and shot at the writer when he ran to the spot from the barn.

The confusing part was that he was dressed in an army uniform and the writer thought he was one of our men, and first told him to get in the clear or he would get shot. Then he took aim with his rifle and started shooting as he advanced. The writer's small tree saved him.

We threw 16 sticks of dynamite at the barn, trying to destroy it, also tried to burn it, but his gunfire kept us at a distance, as Lieutenant Lilly had ordered us to stay in the clear and not get killed, as the capture was now sure.

After almost 7 hours of our shooting into the barn, Speight shouted "I surrender, My God, give me a drink of water!”.

We rushed into the barn and found Speight lying in a horse stall, slowly dying as he had been shot about six times, but he still held the revolver in the air-cocked, still trying to kill. The rifle laid across him soaked with his blood. There were trails of blood up and down all over the barn.

He died on the way to town. The route to town was fringed with citizens, shouting and praising the Lord that Speight had been captured.

Crawford left a wife and two small children.

In the fall of 1924 the writer was sent to Elkins where, during the next two years he was involved in the solution of several of the most serious crimes in the History of Randolph County, necessitate shooting episodes, fatalities and injuries.

DUCKWORTH GETS SHOT

The first was an attempt to apprehend French Mick, wanted for rape of a young girl. Mick lived on Red Creek, near Dry Fork. In the attempted arrest he ran through a door, pulled it shut, knelt on his knee covering the door with a shotgun which he fired when the writer opened the door, blowing his hat off and temporarily stunning and blinding him, during which time he escaped, evading Trooper Sandridge and a Deputy Sheriff on the outside, The writer was bleeding from wounds on the face and head.

This was the starting of a series of vicious crimes committed by Mick, as he hid out in the mountains with a rifle and pistol, evading the Police, whom he would shoot at from long range.

The crimes he committed were too many and varied to try to relate them. The Governor of W. Va. offered a reward for his capture, as did three Counties, Randolph, Tucker and Pendleton (as the counties merged together in that locality) also some citizens offered rewards.

After several months of fruitless searching by Police of three counties, the writer led a posse of State Police and captured him in a mountain shack while asleep. Information as to his hiding place was obtained from a brother, whom the writer forced to talk by the use of Ju-Jitsu.

The arrest of French Mick started another bad Mick situation, as his brothers had sworn they would kill a Doctor Wyatt, who lived on the Dry Folk, because the Doctor had advised the girl he raped to go before the court and indict him - which she did.

The Doctor had treated the girl after the rape. The Mick brothers’ put four red flags on their car, would patrol the road by the Doctor's home, shouting threats and shooting their guns, trying to make good their threats.

Upon receiving reports of this activity, the writer went over to the Doctor's home, hiding in the car back of the house after conferring with the Doctor.

After several hours waiting, a car with 4 red flags passed by, and the writer, upon their return, tried to stop them, and they tried to run over him, but he jumped aside and then jumped on the running board on the offside from the driver, who then tried to draw his gun from the holster on his pants belt.

The writer grabbed his elbow and held it while trying to get him to stop. After several hundred yards of trying to reason with a raving maniac, the car ran up a bank, to the left, upsetting on the writer breaking his hip. Two got away during the confusion, but the driver toppled on top of the writer, who used Jiu-Jitsu to quell and disarm him of a Colt 38 special and 36 rounds of ammunition.

The touring car type top sprung the weight up enough for the writer to free himself, got up on his good leg, held on to the car, keeping the prisoner covered, shouted to Dr. Wyatt to bring his car-that the situation was in hand.

After some explaining to the Doctor, he came with his car and I hopped on one foot and got in with Dorsey Mick, a brother of French.

After about 30 miles of muddy road, and a flat tire, with the Doctor giving me pain pills, we arrived in Elkins, put the prisoner away and went to the hospital for several weeks stay for the writer.

While at Elkins in 1926, we raided the largest and most complete moonshine still outfit ever captured in W. Va., resulting in the deaths of two moon shiners after they starting the shooting, by a near miss the bullet lacerating the necktie of the writer, from a German Mauser.

MOONSHINING ESCAPADES

Ike Teeter, the main participant, who had previously served time in prison for moon shining, owned and operated the outfit on Cheat Mountain, bordering the Dry Fork.

Sgt. Arnold Moore and the writer were slipping towards the still, in a dense forest, when a barking dog spoiled our surprise seizure and the two men, Teeter with the Mauser and another man with a Shotgun were ready for us and started the shooting.

Sgt. Moore shot Teeter through the head before he could fire his second shot at the writer and we both shot the man with the Shotgun, both shooting instantaneous.

Sheriff Zann Collett and Trooper Sandridge were with us when the search started, but had gone in another direction when we were first unable to locate the still.

They heard the shooting and came to us. After a conference they went to Elkins to get the Coroner and Undertakers and brought them to the scene. We were miles away from the highway, near the top of the mountain in a dense forest. It was a very bad situation.

The writer received two promotions while in Elkins from Trooper to Sergeant. Also met and married Ardath Warner, a graduate of Davis and Elkins College and secretary for Gullard and Clark Wholesale House.

In the spring of 1927, the writer was transferred to Weston and due to being Physical Instructor and also in First Aid, in all our training schools at nearby Jackson's Mill, was kept very busy.

A very serious incident occurred, while searching a liquor running car late one night, the driver Tony Olivet, suddenly threw the car in gear and took off, just as the writer had entered the rear seat, at a terrific rate of speed, cursing and raving.

Upon reaching over trying to turn the ignition off, a man in the rear seat (there were three men in the car - two in the front seat) grabbed my 45 revolver and we went into a furious tussle for the possession of it, during which time the gun discharged, shooting the man sitting on the right side of the front seat in the hip and as he screamed, the driver jumped out of the car which was making terrific speed.

Miraculously the car stayed in the road until it stopped. When the gun discharged, the man let loose of it, and left the writer in control of a bad situation. The car was transporting moonshine.

The car had traveled about two miles when the driver (who was later arrested) jumped out. The writer took the back seat man, Loren Miller, to jail and the wounded man to the hospital. It was thought that the driver (who was a notorious bootlegger from Glen Elk of Clarksburg) tired to kidnap the writer and if the hoodlum in the back seat had gotten possession of the gun, it might have been possible.

While at Weston, the writer fought seven professional boxing bouts, in Weston and Clarksburg, which was a financial help. Boxing was the lead sport at the time.

While at Glenville, the writer won the high individual pistol shooting championship for the department for the year 1933 and was presented with a medal by Governor Gump.

DUCKWORTH TAKES ON MAFIA

I was called to our headquarters to assist Capt. Backus in the largest raid on any one vice establishment ever made in W. Va. which was the Monte Carlo type establishment, owned and operated by Bill Lias, who was the biggest, wealthiest racketeer in W. Va. ever had know.

The operation was in Wheeling and we seized and confiscated three truckloads of gambling equipment, along with liquor and bar equipment, and a large sum of gambling money.

In 1935, the writer was transferred to Barboursville in Cabel County, 10 miles east of Huntington. The first summer there the writer-spent part of the time in Washington, D. C., Instructing FBI agents in self-defense, mostly Jiu-Jitsu, by request of the Hon. J. Edgar Hoover.

The last trip there was to direct the making of and appear in a movie picture demonstrating the art of self-defense, which was shown over the USA.

The second year at Barboursville, the biggest bank robbery in W. Va. was executed in South Charleston. $40,000.00 was taken and the robbers made their escape. The only evidence we had was that they were young and the leader wore a polo coat.

Our department under Capt. Ray (Who retired to Roane County) set up a special investigation unit. After weeks of work did not bring in any results, the writer obtained information that solved the case in which the robbers were apprehended and prosecuted.

Newspaper clippings will relate the details. Amos Eugene Ward was the leader wearing the polo coat. When arrested Ward had two half-gallon fruit jars full of large money bills. Capt. Ray and his men worked out the case upon the information the writer had obtained. We seized and confiscated 400 automobiles, running untaxed whiskey from Cattlesburg, Kentucky into West Virginia.

We made two huge vice raids in Huntington after undercover troopers had lined it up.

The writer was promoted to Lieutenant while at Barboursville, then was sent to South Charleston in 1940 in charge of Company "B", a 13 County area.

While there, we conducted the biggest raid ever made in West Virginia. At Charleston, raiding 36 places at the same time, using 100 officers, making 80 arrests.

World War II was in progress and a large number of State Police were in service.

In 1944, was transferred (at the writer's request) to Department Headquarters in the Capitol Building at Charleston in charge of the supply room, so that we could move into our house at Barboursville for the remaining years of State Police Service, which retired the writer in 1952, the first member to serve 30 years.

Upon Retirement from the State Police, a position was taken with Union Carbide at Marietta, Ohio, as industrial Police Supervisor, for 10 years, which made a total of 40 years in police work.

The writer has positive proof by newspaper clippings and other evidence, of everything that he has related in this write-up and will welcome the opportunity to show it to anyone who might be interested.


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